Gameday Observations: 2023 Blue-White Game
For the first time in nearly five full months, Penn State football returned to Beaver Stadium Saturday afternoon for its annual Blue-White Game.
Following the program’s second-ever Rose Bowl victory on January 2, mass contingents of supporters took to the tailgating lots early, despite a steady rain mist dampening the otherwise joyous allure.
While the Nittany Lions won’t officially take the gridiron to kick off its 2023 campaign until September 2 against West Virginia, there was plenty to take in during their spring-ending scrimmage.
Blue-White Boardwalk Offers Array Of Unique Activities & Experiences
Over the years, Blue-White Weekend’s makeshift carnival proved to be one of the event’s most clever components. Despite several attractions making a gradual return over the years under Penn State Athletics’ newer administrations, the boardwalk’s charm was expanded to an entirely different level this go-around.
Aside from children gracing the “Fun Slides” and “Tilt-a-Whirl” rides, the boardwalk provided entertainment for all ages. The Nittany Lions’ Rose Bowl Trophy was available for professional fan photos, at no charge, too, while tailgaters could also participate in unique activities such as a vertical jump test outside Gate A.
Penn State’s marketing team rolled out the red carpet for this year’s rendition of the boardwalk, and hopefully, it’s here to stay long-term moving forward.
Tailgates Return In Droves Despite Weather
After a near-perfect weather week graced Happy Valley’s landscape, mother nature ended its glorious streak with an endless rainy morning prior to the matchup’s 2 p.m. start time.
While the rain was consistent from about 7:30 a.m. until kickoff, the wet conditions didn’t prevent fans from arriving to the tailgating lots early and setting up shop for the afternoon.
Postgame, James Franklin said the university’s official attendance figure hovered just over 63,000 fans packed in the stands. While the number seemed like a stretch, the tailgating scene didn’t appear to take a hit, as it felt like that of a normal noon contest during the fall.
Golden Israel-Achumba Wows With National Anthem Rendition
Well, this was a unique surprise.
For almost every single Penn State football gathering in Beaver Stadium, except for the COVID-19 hindered season, the Blue Band performs the “Star-Spangled Banner” pregame under the direction of Dr. Gregory Drane.
This time around, the band took a backseat to redshirt junior offensive lineman Golden Israel-Achumba, who belted out the national anthem facing the stadium’s west bleachers without any semblance of background music.
Israel-Achumba’s nerves were evident but well-warranted early, but the Maryland native belted out the closing stanza with several drawn-out notes, which impressed the onlookers who responded with palpable applause.
Quarterbacks Don Black Jerseys With Lined Sleeves
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for the Nittany Lions’ jerseys before 2011 that include opposite-colored trim on their collars and sleeves.
However, if the goal of an alternative look for the quarterbacks is to prevent hits or injuries throughout the scrimmage, the black look, which is very similar to the squad’s typical navy blue, might not be the best bet.
Before Franklin arrived in Happy Valley, both Joe Paterno and Bill O’Brien suited up their gunslingers in bright red tops to ensure pull-up from the defensive front. Although the look didn’t represent Penn State’s traditional color scheme, it achieved its goal swimmingly.
The black jerseys were unique and obviously received a buzz as every temporary or permanent Penn State football uniform alteration does, but I’m not sure it necessarily accomplished its goal from a safety standpoint.
Music Blares On Beaver Stadium’s Sound System Throughout
From the get-go, Blue-White’s simulated scrimmage was given a backyard football feel with music blasted on the overhead PA system throughout the four-quarter affair.
After the opening kickoff, “Lion King Trap Remix”, the song played before the opening play at every home matchup since 2016, stayed on the speakers for almost the entirety of Blue’s opening drive.
The tunes never subsided, either. From “Wildest Dreams” to “Wagon Wheel” to “Levitating”, Beaver Stadium happened to play site to a sing-a-long and a football game, alike.
No Guardian Caps
For the Nittany Lions’ last pair of Blue-White matchups, all players on both sides of the ball donned Guardian Cap, serving as helmet covers to limit the severity of contact hits to the hit area.
This year, however, the lids were nowhere to be found. Except for the quarterbacks, players took repetitive contact as normal, without any additional devices utilized to lessen the blow.
Franklin, or any member of the Nittany Lions’ squad, failed to address the absence of the caps postgame, which has us wondering if the investment was ever worth it in the first place.
Limited Experience For Specialists
With Jake Pinegar and Barney Amor’s former starting spots left vacant at placekicker and punter, respectively, Franklin has mentioned the importance of naming viable replacements into their roles throughout the spring practice period.
But, during Blue-White’s scrimmage, just one field goal was attempted throughout the game’s duration.
Newly integrated Columbia graduate transfer Alex Felkins drilled the matchup’s lone attempt from 22 yards late in the second quarter, but his lead competitor Sander Sahaydak never received a chance to impress in front of the spring game crowd.
Punting appeared to be a glaring concern for Stacy Collins’ positional bunch, as Alex Bacchetta notched five boots, averaging just 33.4 yards per kick. On the Blue squad, FAU transfer Riley Thompson received just one attempt but delivered a 62-yard strike inside the White Team’s 20-yard line.
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